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Boston Marathon Honors Stelios Kyriakides, Who Ran for Greece

Boston Marathon
Flags showing the iconic image of Greek runner Stylianos Kyriakides adorn light poles along the route of the Boston Marathon for the 125th running of the race, which will take place on October 11, 2021. Credit: Facebook/Consulate of Greece in Boston

Boston Athletic Association officials announced that the 125th annual Boston Marathon
will honor Marathon history and the future of running this year, with a special nod to the Greek winner from 1946, Stylianos Kyriakides.

A flag showing the Greek war hero’s image as he ran through the streets of Boston that year now adorns a light pole along the route of the iconic race in the runup to the big day on October 11.

Special programming will honor the history of the race, which will be run for the first time in person after 900 days, after being run remotely by runners who went through their own 26.2 mile course on their own individually after Covid struck.

The Marathon’s first-ever Opening Celebration will highlight important moments from Boston Marathon history and feature a presentation on the Greek olive Wreaths presented annually to Boston Marathon champions. The celebration will be held on Friday, October 8 at 6:00 PM in Copley Square.

This is the first time the B.A.A. has officially recognized the actions of the great runner who came to Boston to run to raise money for humanitarian aid for the Greek people, who were suffering greatly after the War.

The B.A.A. made sure that the Kyriakides flag was posted at a prominent point on the Boston Common, opposite the Consulate General of Greece.

Legendary Boston Marathon runner Kyriakides remembered around world today

Stylianos (Stelios) Kyriakides is a Greek legend for all Marathon runners. After deciding to run to raise funds for his suffering countrymen, his efforts were encouraged by fellow Greek Spyridon Louis, the first modern Olympic Marathon winner, who told him “My son Stelios, you should always run, because we Greeks were born to run. This is how we managed to live for so many centuries.”

In order to get there, he had to sell his furniture, enabling him to buy a single ticket. According to a newspaper report, he was running with Johnny Kelley near the end, when an old man shouted from the crowd, ‘For Greece, for your children!’, inspiring him to pull away and win the race in 2:29:27, the fastest marathon time of 1946, and 14 minutes faster than his previous best time.

After crossing the finishing line in first place, Kyriakides looked up to the sky and shouted “For Greece!”

After his amazing victory, he then toured America to raise the desperately-needed funds that would be used to help feed and clothe his fellow Greeks back home after the great deprivations of the War.

After the Marathon champion implored Americans for their help, they responded. When he returned to Greece, he arrived with 25,000 tons of supplies in American aid, including $250,000 in cash. Over one million Greeks from all over the country lined the streets of Athens to greet the returning hero. Johnny Kelley purchased the shoes that Kyriakides used in his victory.

The remarkable runner is also being honored once again by his son, Dimitris Kyriakides, who is preparing a book about his father to be released in 2021, 75 years after his great victory. The book, titled “The Life and Timeless Work of Stelios Kyriakides,” is a loving tribute to the charismatic Greek man by his son.

Kyriakides had life of courage and selfless determination

Kyriakides was born on May 4, 1910, in the mountain village of Statos, in Cyprus. At the age of 19, the odd jobs he was doing to help his family brought him to work as a house boy in the home of the British doctor Reginald Cheverton.

It was there that Kyriakides was told by Dr. Cheverton that he had the potential to become a good long distance runner. Under Cheverton’s encouragement, Kyriakides began running late at night along Limassol Beach — wearing his work clothes.

In September of 1933 he was sent to Greece to take part in the National Championship and the Pre-Balkan races, where he came in second in the 10K.

It was the beginning of Kyriakides’ brilliant athletic career. He later finished in 11th place at the Berlin Olympic marathon. From that moment on, he held the National Greek Marathon record until April 1968 — a total of 34 years and 6 months. It was most likely the longest national record held by one man, according to the Guinness Book of Records.

But his athleticism is only one aspect of his remarkable persona; his selfless courage was perhaps his most salient characteristic.

During the German occupation of Greece, Kyriakides assisted Resistance fighters by passing messages to different groups. In early 1943, he was arrested and taken to the main square in Chalandri along with another 49 people, who were all to be executed by hanging.

When Kyriakides was asked for his identification, he showed the German officer his Berlin Olympics ID. The German, very surprised, asked him how he got it.

Kyriakides explained the story, and it just so happened the German officer was a long distance runner himself. By this strange quirk of fate, the Greek marathon runner was allowed to walk away. The other 49 Greeks were tragically killed that day; the searing incident marked Kyriakides deeply throughout the rest of his life.

He was awarded Greece’s greatest honor, the Grand Cross of the Phoenix, by the King of the Greeks at that time.

In the United States, Boston Marathon winner Kyriakides was honored by the Governor of Massachusetts, the Olympic Committee of the U.S.A. and other officials.

In The Sports Museum in Boston, Massachusetts, there is a permanent exhibition in honor of the Greek phenomenon, with the title “Stylianos Kyriakides – Running for Mankind.”

In 2006, the city of Hopkinton, Massachusetts, where the Boston Marathon starts, unveiled a stunning statue of Kyriakides called “The Spirit of the Marathon,” showing him winning the 1946 marathon with the “help” of Spyridon Louis, the Greek man who won the Marathon in the first modern Olympics in 1898.

The evocative statue was dedicated on the 60th anniversary of his victory, in 2006. A copy of the same sculpture has been placed in the municipality of Marathon in Greece.

The Grand Marshals for the 125th Boston Marathon will be frontline workers who have been nominated by hospitals from the John Hancock Non-Profit and B.A.A. Charity Programs.

Announced earlier this year, the Marathon will feature a rolling start and earlier start times, with men beginning at 8:37 AM ET and women at 8:45 AM.

The 125th Boston Marathon will be broadcast live in its entirety locally on WBZ-TV (CBS Boston), nationally on NBC Sports Network, and on the NBC Sports App.

The Consulate of Greece in Boston notes that 75 years after that iconic race, Kyriakidis still remains a strong international symbol of resilience, determination and endurance, inspiring thousands of runners around the world to run for charitable causes.

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